Felbridge, Border Village
by Ruth Lawrence
Felbridge straddles Surrey and West Sussex and lies equidistant between London and Brighton. Ruth Lawrence details its rich history.
With a population of over two thousand, Felbridge is large enough to feel distinct from East Grinstead, which it joins to the south east. The village was on the main horse and carriage road from London to Brighton in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was a single day’s journey from the capital and made a suitable place to stop on what was once the two-day journey to the coast. The journey to London is now but a quick hop from East Grinstead station just a mile and a half from the village, making the area popular with commuters and families.
Felbridge has many features that connect it to its past as a stopping place between town and city. The village pond at the top of Woodcock Hill would have been a welcome watering place for horses who had struggled up the steep hill and as cars took over from horses, it became simply a feature of the village. In the 1950’s it was suggested that the pond be filled, but thankfully it was maintained and is now a rich haven for wildlife. The Evelyn Chestnuts are an impressive row of chestnut trees that were planted between 1710 and 1720 in two avenues of fifty two trees each.Although threatened many times in the last half century, the Parish Council always managed to retain them as an important historical feature and about forty remain today.
The area is home to the largest lake in Surrey, Hedgecourt Lake, which is a designated Site of SpecialScientific Interest and the woodland at the west end of the lake is a nature reserve managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. The Romans constructed a track through what is now the centre of Felbridge; it connected a number of places where iron was smelted as valuable iron ore was processed in this area. The road would have enabled workers and iron to travel through the boggy Weald and in the 1500’s local iron ore again caused significant change in the area. Three lakes were built to power the industry and a blast furnace and hammer mill were built to make cast and wrought iron.
The area around Felbridge has a fascinating past, which has been meticulously researched by the Felbridge and District History Group. Their comprehensive website details varied aspects of the village and the people who lived there. The stories have relevance far beyond the village boundaries and paint a well observed portrait of lifewhich would have flourishedin the South of England.